Green Is the New Black: Eco-Friendliest Fashion Labels for Earth Day
Wave your eco-flag this Earth Day with these green-minded labels...
“Consciously gorgeous” is the motto of Caipora Jewelry, the first accessories label to win the Ethical Fashion Forum Innovation Award. Caipora’s artisans and designers create pieces from unconventional materials including golden grass, seeds, recycled bone, horn, wood and coconut shells, and upcycled paper and leather.
This venerable denim brand might a far cry from the boutique cottage industry one normally associates with sustainable fashion, but Levi's was actually one of the first major brands to take eco-fashion seriously. In 2007, Levi’s conducted a life-cycle assessment measuring the environmental impact of two of its most popular products: 501 Jeans and Dockers. The company uses organic cotton and recycled materials; works with NGOs to teach cotton farmers to use less water; and even encourages customers to wash their jeans less frequently. In October of last year, Levi’s unveiled its Waste‹Less collection, featuring jeans made from at least 20% recycled plastic.
Stella McCartney famously abstains from using leather and fur in her designs, but the line’s commitment to sustainability goes deeper. The company publishes a detailed account of its environmental footprint on its website. In 2012, 34% of the line’s denim and 36% of its jersey was sourced from organic cotton. All of McCartney’s UK offices and stores are powered by wind energy. Even more refreshing is the brand’s commitment to transparency: “We will probably never be perfect, but you can rest assure that we are always trying.”
Launched in 2005 by globetrotting do-gooder Bono and his wife Ali Hewson, Edun encourages fair trade with Africa. Design is spearheaded by Sharon Wauchob, who brings an edgy downtown ethos to the globally-minded brand. Edun currently manufactures clothes in Kenya, Morocco, Madagascar, Uganda, and Tunisia, and hopes to produce 40% of its collections in Africa this year. Edun’s Conservation Cotton Initiative promotes eco-friendly cotton farming in Uganda.
Titania Inglis’s pared-down, ethereal clothes embody a minimalist aesthetic, but — as the designer’s website points out — her line’s environmental impact is “equally minimal.” Made in New York from sustainably sourced fabrics like deadstock wool and vegetable-tanned leather, Inglis’s garments are as ecologically light-footed as possible. Her efforts were rewarded with a 2012 Ecco Domani Fashion Foundation award in Sustainable Design. For fall 2013, she even did a sustainable take on that omnipresent trend, fur. “I knew it was going to be big and I wanted to see how I could do that in a sustainable way,” she told the website Ecouterre. The reindeer hides in her collection were sourced from the Sami people of Lapland, who use the rest of the animal for food.
Organic by John Patrick
John Patrick’s sexy and minimalist "Organic" collection is created from earth-friendly materials including recycled fabrics, organic carbon-neutral wool yarn, and botanical dyes. Patrick launched his eco-conscious clothing line in 2007, after establishing relationships with collective farmers growing organic wool and cotton in Peru.
Partners in life and in design, Jeffrey Costello and Robert Tagliapietra met in 1994, and began their own label in 2005. The plaid-clad agro-hipster husbands are known for creating sensual draped cocktail attire in silk and jersey, made with sustainable design practices. In 2010, Costello Tagliapietra won the Lexus/CFDA Award for eco-friendly design. The designers use Airdye, a waterless dye system that saves thousands of gallons of water and conserves energy.
According to its website, Swedish megabrand H&M believes “that all business operations shall be run in a way that is economically, socially and environmentally sustainable.” While the first bracket applies to any company wanting to stay in business, it’s the second two in which H&M has really made a difference. For example, the brand has saved 450,000,000 liters of water to date in denim production. It's also the top user of organic cotton worldwide and has recycled some 3.2 million garments in donations.
Johnson Hartig’s Libertine line emerged on the scene in 2001, with fans ranging from Anna Wintour to Karl Lagerfeld. Known for its rockabilly irreverence, the company has also always purported a sustainable bent, namely through repurposing vintage clothing. Hartig also won the CFDA Lexus Eco Fashion Challenge in 2011, for his eco-friendly silkscreened T-shirt collection.
Maria Cornejo, another winner of the CFDA/Lexus Hybrid Living Eco-Fashion Challenge, uses organic cotton, recycled fabrics, and knit wool sourced from Bolivian women’s collectives in her modern and architectural clothes. The majority of her collections are made locally in New York City. “We’re trying to make the right decision whenever we’re choosing fabric or working on something, whether it’s leathers that are vegetable-dyed or fabrics that are recycled or the way things are cut,” she told Ecouterre. She even used a shimmering textile made from recycled cassette tapes in her fall 2011 collection.